What with Miss Ball’s recent Mansfield Park deflowering, (and some of you got deflowered along with her, I know), it’s been a confessional little old time over here at Austenacious. And since they say confession is good for the soul . . . or catching, at any rate . . . I too have a confession to make. I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice!
Ha, ha, no, psych! I’ve read all Jane Austen’s major books many times, I’ve read Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon each more than once, I’ve read Jane’s History of England—I’ve even read the Juvenilia, which are pretty hilarious and a lot less refined in more than one way, if you know what I mean. I’ll admit that I haven’t yet read the complete Letters, but that is not my deep dark secret. No, gentle readers, the secret that I have hidden from you all this time . . . is that I have never seen the 1995 BBC Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle Pride and Prejudice. Nope! Never seen him jump into the lake even once! (How do I know he jumps into a lake? Have you met yourselves at all, AustenFirth fans??)
“But how can this be, Mrs. F?” I hear you cry. “Were you not raised by a good, Austen-lovin’ mamma?” Well, I was. But those were different times, and I was raised on the clean, wholesome 1980 BBC version, always dear to my heart. I did see 2 minutes of the 1995 version when it first aired, and, bear with me here, I thought Jennifer Ehle was far too sappy to be Lizzie. No Colin Firth onscreen, and I didn’t stick around.
Well, that was 1995 and this is 2012. And here I am, ready to give this another try. Miss Ball and Miss Osborne will be on hand to laugh at my ignorance. And if you haven’t seen the Colin Firth version recently, say this year, you can laugh along with them! We’ll be liveblogging Pride and Prejudice this coming weekend:
4/28, 12-3 pm, PT: Episodes 1-3
4/29, 12-3 pm, PT: Episodes 4-6
Will my curmudgeonly heart stay true to Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul, or will I be swayed by the wet, billowy cotton of Colin Firth? Stay tuned! And come on, I know you all need a refresher course, right? I mean, can you think of a better way to spend the weekend?
See you on Saturday!
I suppose you all have seen the news that an Oxford scholar, Prof. Kathryn Sutherland, has proclaimed that Jane Austen’s manuscripts are full of errors, and that she needed an editor (probably William Gifford, who worked for her publisher, John Murray II) to produce the polished style of Emma and Persuasion.
I am personally of the opinion that this is a publicity stunt to gain attention for her new website: Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts. Which is indeed a valuable, not to mention fun, resource—with online facsimile copies of the MSS, we can all get into a tizzy over Jane’s typos (or write-os?), her “teh”s and “!1″s, and gosh, even her crossings out and changings of her mind!
The weird thing, you see, is that no, repeat NO, manuscripts exist for the Famous Six, apart from an alternate ending for Persuasion, which Austen herself later rejected. So Sutherland is, it seems, taking early drafts for other novels, a few chapters the author eventually scrapped, and juvenilia, and saying they couldn’t have led to the Great Ones without outside help. I call that a fairly big leap, and I am not alone.
I find it hilarious and sad that this is the news story. I guess it’s being presented this way because she is a celebrity, and they exist to be lauded, yes, but also exploited and torn down. Because insert anyone else’s name, and it becomes an Onion story: “Mrs. Fitzpatrick had to use the spell checker today! She even changed her mind on what she would say!!! And if you look at the, ahem, stories she wrote as a girl, they bear no resemblance to this post. I bet she didn’t even write it!”
So, a note to all potential authors out there, especially what with National Novel Writing Month coming up: You can be a writer even though you make mistakes and change your mind. Yes, editors exist. Content editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders are there to help you by correcting your typos and your brain farts. They may even have suggestions on plot, structure, and style. That does not mean you cannot be a great writer. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean that Jane Austen was a bad one.
I’ve come to a realization, lately, about Jane. Or, rather, about myself and Jane, and about myself and Jane’s works. This winter, I think it’s time for me to venture off the trodden path of the usual Austen brain-space and explore the parts of her oeuvre that I don’t know much–some might say anything–about. This is my brand of winter adventure: like telemarking for the brain! Like snow-cave camping minus the frostbite! I am extreme!
By which I mean: I really need to read Lady Susan.
It was A Woman’s Wit that got me in the mood: their description of Lady Susan and its wily, worldly heroine (or “heroine”?) struck me in the moment, and has attached itself to my brain. How does Lady Susan–her personality and her situation–fit into the Austen canon? Or does she fit in at all?
Here’s what interests me: as much as Jane’s other protagonists differ in status, personality, and degree of pleasantness, they’re all Misses. They’re young, relatively innocent, and looking for love the first time around; we’re supposed to root for them because they are heroines and because they have their whole adult lives ahead of them, to be filled with a satisfying, loving marriage and a bountiful life–or not. And that’s what I don’t know about Lady Susan: if Lady Susan herself is a social cruiser, a ladder-climber, how does Jane present her? Is she sympathetic? Is she desperate? A party-crasher with a heart of gold? Scamming for a husband, but with honorable intentions? Or is this the Caroline Bingley novel? Social “sharks” are so often despised in Jane’s work that I can’t quite grasp how things look when she chooses to feature one as her protagonist.
So, coming up, Lady Susan and, I hope, a little foray into unknown territory. Hot chocolate and crampons (hee, crampons) optional.